Falling Forward

 – an ode to my favorite fragrant Fall thrills

Autumn is one of my favorite times of the year. A little melancholy, slightly tinged with regrets for what might have been and what should have been done, autumn has also proven itself to be the season of cataclysmic change this year, a change so drastic, it’s been all I can do to hang on by the skin of my teeth and know…that all I can do is to go with the flow and give myself over…to evolution and the knowledge that from here on, life can only get more exciting.

And I can give myself over to the many pleasures of falling forward…into autumn, into the incendiary glow of golden-leafed trees, ruby-hued leaves, and the intoxicating sharp scent of burning wood fireplaces and bonfires, the smell of mushrooms and cepes sprouting up overnight, the sound and scent of apples falling to the ground, that looming breath of steel and stone that lurks beneath the colors and the chills in the air. Wrapping my chilly, wintry self into favorite woolen sweaters, and wrapping favorite scarves and mufflers around my neck, inhaling that palimpsest of perfumes worsted in the wool.

Autumn is also an excuse for hauling out the heavy, heady perfumes with which to slay the unsuspecting world – the ones I wear as I would wear cashmere, the ones that comfort and console me on rainy days and Thursdays, the ones I wear like scented armor, and all the ones I love…

Below, you’ll find some of my favorite autumn fumes, the ones that contain October  and November in their essence, the ones that trail behind me like the ghosts of autumns past as well as harbinger angels of the future possibilities that lie ahead, waiting for when life returns and all is green again.

L’Artisan Parfumeur – Seville à l’Aube

It’s generally agreed that Bertrand Duchaufour is one of the greatest perfumed geniuses alive today. His work has ruined me several times over this year, when I was introduced to Neela Vermeire’s breathtaking perfume odes to her native India and all three of them shot to the top of my Most Worn of the year list. Next came an introduction to L’Artisan’s Dzongkha – one haunting, numinous iris – and Sienne L’Hiver, no less haunting and evocative. They all broke my heart. But when I read of Duchaufour’s collaboration with one of my own inspirations, Denyse Beaulieu of Grain de Musc, and heard the fated words ‘orange’ and ‘blossom’, I was had at the first syllable. Oh! So imagine my anticipation when I moved in on a split of Seville à L’Aube blind (this very rarely happens any longer), and all it took to tip me over the edge was one fatal sniff…My full review will be up in a few weeks, but this mesmerizing blend of orange blossom, lavender and incense is …flawless.

Amouage – Memoir Woman

Something about autumn brings out my inner Goth, which is to say, that part of me that appreciates seriously depressed-mode music, rainy days, and lots of witchy black velvet. While I wouldn’t be so bold as to say Memoir Woman is Goth per se, I will say that it is a moody, magnificent, haunting perfume of a kind that tends to stick in the mind long after it wears off. I didn’t like it much at first, but I couldn’t stop sniffing. It reminded me of a advertising tagline I once cooked up for a story I wrote: “Haunted. What he will be.” Haunting, unforgettable, there is nothing quite like it and nothing quite like a love that grows and grows to haunt you.  As it has. As I have been. As I remain.

Serge Lutens – De Profundis

Some claimed that dear Uncle Serge had somehow lost his marbles when De Profundis was released, and I have no idea what mushrooms they nibbled, because De Profundis – inspired by the treatise by Oscar Wilde, death and funereal chrysanthemums – is simultaneously green, cool and impossible to forget. Incense, chrysanthemum and a mesmerizing icy green-tinged, tear-stained violet chill all add up to ‘spellbinding’ in my book, but if any Lutens is perfect for that delicious melancholy that pervades October Sunday afternoons, it’s this one.

Aftelier – Cepes and Tuberose

My first introduction to the fabled perfumes of Aftelier was Mandy Aftel’s justly famous and unorthodox Cepes and Tuberose, which is earthy, floral, spicy, heady bottled magic – or else a horror story of mildewed mushroom and airy tuberose. There is truly nothing at all else quite like it, and you either adore it or hate it. I have since that fatal introduction loved it so much, a mini of the parfum goes where I go and a dab often wafts as I breathe no matter what else I wear. It smells golden to me – golden as the maple leaves that now are turning red to bloom in midair and dance their leafy sigh into the ground.

Neela Vermeire – Trayee

Whether it’s the blaze of color or the sudden shock of chill in the air, there is something numinous about autumn, something that reminds you of the passage of time and the ephemerality of all life. When that sudden pang of mortality hits me with the delicate slap of a falling leaf, I often reach for Trayee, a swirling, whirling, spicy Mahabarata epic in a bottle, wit its fiery, feisty cardamom, a wink or two of sacred bhang, smoke, incense and samsara. In no time, my spirits lift and my mood improves, and I dream such faraway dreams of other times and other, sacred spaces.

A Trinity of Ambers

Autumn is also the perfect time for ambers…those glorious, heady, drop-dead sexy golden potions I once hated and now love with a fury that teeters on obsession. Three in particular hold pride of place in my amber-tinted Pantheon, and I’m not even sure I can bear to know there will be others in their wake. The Great Khadine, Serge Lutens’ Ambre Sultan, with its opening green bite and its sumptuous drydown, whispers its secrets in my ear, while Amouage’s Opus VI speaks its twisting, turning, ever-evolving tongues of wood flickering in firelight, and when I stand still and listen to the beat of my heart in the moonlight, Neil Morris’ Rumi trills its transcendental tale of another kind of sweet-scented magic.

Labdanum dreams

The ongoing Devilscent Project has completely changed my life around in more ways than one. I could talk about these unbelievable perfumes until the cows came home to roost, but the one note the Devil insisted upon to his perfumers was labdanum, a whole fragrant universe unto itself, and one of the oldest perfumery materials in the world. When life has been known to grind me down, Olympic Orchids’ spare, pensive Dev #4, which puts a magnificent labdanum in the spotlight, centers me as nothing else will, so even I can envision such luscious, labdanum things come true. As I do, I’m often taken back to a midnight moment in time, and when I am, another spicier, darker, more ominous labdanum-tinged marvel wafts forward, and that is Neil Morris’ Midnight at the Crossroads Café.

Olivier Durbano – Black Tourmaline

One reviewer on Fragrantica stated that Olivier Durbano’s Black Tourmaline was ‘for real men only’. This is absolute nonsense. For Black Tourmaline is a stunning mélange of leather and the darkest, deepest, smokiest incense you can imagine, and I’ve received many, many compliments when I’ve worn it, despite being nothing masculine in the slightest, not even in a tux. It’s as otherworldly as a fog-drenched November morning and as warming as a firelight glow at night, and when it goes, it will be missed, like November, like firelight, like a ghostly wisp of cloud bearing down to kiss the earth one last and final time.

More than any other season, autumn sings to me of time passing, of moments as fleeting as the bloom of glowing leaves dancing in a deep blue sky. When Debussy’s ‘Clair de Lune’ seems to match the tasty tristesse of a rainy afternoon, and when the smoky thrills of firelight and flame warm the soul through.

What are your autumn favorites? Or just…your favorite things about autumn? I’d love to hear about them!

With many thanks to…Andrea, Amy, Ruth, Christopher, Mandy, Ellen, JoAnne, Neil and Christos. 

15 thoughts on “Falling Forward

  1. It’s still not Autumn here but I declared one in my Perfume Kingdom and today I’m wearing Parfum d’Empire Ambre Russe that I was craving for the last three month but felt it would be wrong to wear it – even though the Summer was cool.

    I look forward to wearing all my amber perfumes – I missed them. Next month I hope to visit a wine country two hours drive from where I live to get my share of red and golden leaves. Other than that, Fall is a beginning of my favorite time of the year – holidays season.

    Have a great Autumn, Sheila!

    1. Undina, I’ve heard stories about Ambre Russe…and hardly dare try it yet, my wish list is already too long! 😉 Enjoy your trip to wine country…and your autumn, too!

  2. It’s been a bumpy sort of Autumn here in Pennsylvania, with more rainy days than I care for, but interspersed with some incredibly beautiful and crisp days too. I absolutely ❤ ❤ ❤ several perfumes that made your list (Seville a l'Aube, Memoir, Opus VI)!!!

    Probably the quintessential autumn scent for me is Serge Lutens Arabie, but I've also been enjoying the heck out of MFK Absolue Pour le Soir lately. It's decadence really calls out to me … maybe because fall always strikes me as the most romantic time of year. (Forget Valentine's Day and February … fall has it all! So cozy.) 😉

    1. Ah, the wonder that is Arabie…I would have added it, but alas, I loved it to death and nearly beyond!:-) Absolue Pour le Soir has been on my wish and review list for quite some time – it’s a bit like what I wish Bal à Versailles has been for me (BàV didn’t work on me at all), the problem is, it’s so sinfully sensual, it needs a date, and alas, I don’t have one! 😉 Incidentally, I totally agree with you – Fall IS the most romantic time of the year!

    2. Ah, Suzanne…Arabie…I still have your sample with maybe one wear left, found it the other day, and as soon I get a chance, I’ll wrap myself in its glorious spice and fire and…think of you, of autumn and – why not? – maybe a little romance, too! 😉

  3. I tend to enjoy the darker and heavier incense fragrances as the weather gets colder.One of my great loves is dark rose scents.They seem perfect in this transition time.I’m currently enjoying DSH’s Inner Sanctum a dark mossy Bulgarian rose perfume with a slightly sour edge,Paestum Rose-a dark incense and myrhh rose like being in an ancient temple,my favorite Tauer’s Incense Rose and a new purchase Une Rose Chypree(and Orange Star with the heavenly orange and orange blossom melting into the Tauer incense base)….and roll the drums please….after putting it off ever since it came out because of the steeeeeep price….I went to Aedes and sprung for a full bottle of FM’s Portrait of a Lady.As much as I tried to dislike it because of the price I just couldn’t get it out of my mind…it haunted me…and now I have my holy grail dark oriental patchouli rose(which should last me a lifetime as it has the lasting power of the half life or Uranium!).I need to try Trayee and Black Tourmaline as I hear it shares a similar vibe with my beloved L’air du Desert Marocain

    1. Go for it, RVB!c You know you want to! Haven’t tried Portrait of a Lady, but Incense Rose and L’Air du Desert are breathtaking…as is Orange Star – and perfect for Fall! 🙂

  4. Heya, I am longing for the drop back to fall when I can really wear all my favourites again, though I still do of course just not as lavishly. I love this selection.
    Sorry to say but the new background makes it very hard for me to read and keep focus.
    Love to you,
    Portia xx

    1. Sheila, I hope you don’t mind me saying so too, but like Portia, I found your new background difficult in terms of reading your post. It’s really attractive, but it does tax the eyes after a bit.

      1. I don’t mind in the slightest. It was actually a bit of frustration that all the best WP themes will cost me, so I tried to give TAG a makeover I could afford! Thank you for letting me know – and as you can tell, I’ve changed the background to a luscious (and non-distracting) shade of cream.

    2. Thank you for your comment, Portia! No worries about the background – it’s been changed and hopefully, it works better for you? Lucky you, btw – it’s spring down under, and I can imagine your world must be blooming! Love back – always!

      1. AHHH, Sweet restful cream. Thank You. I was now able to go back and re read your post. I have tried hardly any of these. On my way to order.
        What about Seville au l’Aube? I love it too. It quite often gets the morning wear spot in my fragrant day, and with Spring here! AWESOME!
        Portia xx

  5. Wow Sheila – I’m always amazed by your perceptive and beautiful writing, and quite honored to be chosen for your Fall favorites! I’m so heartened by your support for indie perfumes, and truly moved that Cepes & Tuberose goes everywhere with you!
    xo Mandy

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